Tuesday, August 26, 2008

athens basics.

today we visited bizarro wuxtry, a quintessential athens establishment. nevermind the dust bunnies, bizarro is full of great comics, zines and buttons. devlin, the manager, also makes 1" buttons (under the name 'inch high'). if you need buttons made in athens, he's probably your man. he has done some exceptional things to push the boundaries of buttonry. with his permission, i will be lifting on of these techniques soon for a new button adventure. but until then, i leave you with an image of the amazing tin ceiling at the grit...

Monday, August 25, 2008

sitting on the factory floor.

yesterday was taken easy. we hardly went out. i made lots of buttons. and in the evening we all sat around working on various craft projects, chatting and watching movies. we also participated in rancho cocoa's weekend wind-down (an activity which results in many lists, so i'm extra down with it). oh, that's nilla up there performing her nonchalant trick of just sitting still like a person.

me, i'm working on replacing tara bursey's cheap dates button sets that were all gobbled up by various stores on our travels. your girls are out there in the big bad world now, tara. and they're multiplying.

missy is working on a big custom order for the local water utility making all these terry cloth drops. well, i call them miss missy's li'l drips - you may have to petition her to change their name. i think missy might also want to consider claiming that they cure dropsy.

today, after much talk of missy's comic strip in the local weekly, i finally went online to look it up. holy man, do people get riled up over some drawings of cute wittew tofus. it's amazing. it seems like the paper gets most of its letters about her strip. the rancho cocoas told us that a few years ago the ire of one athenian even spurred a poster campaign. people are weird. and amazing. i'm impressed with missy for taking this weekly abuse on her $20-per-strip salary.

oh i should also announce that i couldn't help but begin a rubber band ball for the road. if my baby at home hasn't totally atrophied in the summer heat, maybe they can be pals upon my return to toronto.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

a little georgian german town.

our first day in athens began as all first days here should - with brunch at the grit, an amazing vegetarian restaurant with friendly service and cures for road gut.

but this was just the first of the wonders we would witness. our gracious hosts, missy and raoul, had planned a great adventure for us - a trip to alpine helen (or helen, georgia). helen is a small town about an hour and a half's drive from athens that is designed to make tourists and vacationers think they are in germany...only with more american and confederate flags sprinkled about.

missy and raoul were looking at cookoo clocks in their mission to cutify their home, rancho cocoa. but alpine helen holds far more marvels than just germanic clocks. there is also a miniature kingdom,...

...strange and wonderful sweets,...


...and an historic indian mound (with a gazebo built on it).

i'm pretty sure there is a town ordinance that requires all structures to look faux alpine. even the dutch import shop where i bought postcards...and the circle k.

i must say that all of my recent interactions with miniatures have gotten me really excited about taking pictures of them. but i was haunted by the suspicion (and now with the help of some friends knowledge) that somebody has already done this better and firster. actually, i found a few people doing miniature photo projects. and besides, i am not a photographer. i suppose it will just have to remain a hobby.

when we got home, missy was so tuckered out that she curled up on the table and reverted to her natural form:

Friday, August 22, 2008

asheville, north carolina.

today bring just a brief note to discuss the towns of asheville and neighbouring weaverville, north carolina.

corrine, who runs a vintage and handmade shop called diggin' art, originally found my work a few years back through another ashevillian, john murphy of stupid creatures. she has since had a very bad car/vespa accident and had to shut down her shop in asheville. the cosmos being what they are, though, we happened to be passing through the area right after she managed to reopen (titanium spine and all) in nearby weaverville (where she lives). if you are in the area and haven't checked out the new shop yet, you should. her vintage selection is just amazing and every nook and cranny in the new space holds surprises of vintage findings or indie made stuff.

that set of drawers up there is where my buttons were housed when i got there. go find them! that is, unless corrine has found some funky new display idea by the time you get there.

as for now, we are headed to athens, georgia, where we are being taken in my missy and raoul for some down days at rancho cocoa. more on that as time progresses. we also did some thrifting today and i got a quilt top that my friend jen is going to try to murder me for. i might do a thrift stuff round up during our time in athens...but until then i will just gently twist the knife by saying it was five dollars.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

driving south.

i like the south. i feel more relaxed as i drive south in the states.

i have also been thinking a lot about the songs that go through my head as i travel. road signs trigger a slew of songs i haven't though about in years. for philadelphia, the song about his home town by atom and his package; for new york the song new york city by vancouver band of my youth, cub; washington dc by the magnetic fields, in indiana by brenda kahn; california by joni mitchell; and wichita has two songs - that one by the white stripes and true dreams of wichita by soul coughing. but the most upsetting by far is a nick cave song (maybe his version of an old country standard) that aitor introduced me to on this trip - knoxville girl. i'm never that cool with murder ballads, but mr. cave does do a good job of expressing the straight horror of the lyrics. at the very least he's not trying to pretty the song up. i find it chilling. regardless of any higher thought, though, i was a little dismayed to have this grisly song chirping through my head as we passed through tennessee today.

thankfully we arrived in asheville, north carolina, by evening and i don't know any songs about this place. they also take great care around these parts to be hospitable...

now all we have to contend with is a motel full of nascar-lovin' boomhauers who are currently running around this fair establishment drinking cruddy beer and yelling things i couldn't possibly decipher. how does all this still feel like we are coming home?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

creativity and creationism in kentucky.

it is at times like these that i consider dividing blog posts into thematic sections instead of doing daily reports. i also recently discovered google analytics (thank you, marya) and thereby realized that a blog about sock monkeys had to link to by post about shannon gerard's boobs and dinks in order to post information about operation sock monkey. but maybe this is good. maybe contradictions, confrontations and coincidences are more defining of human experience than we usually acknowledge. but i digress. and i am thinking myself outside of my station in life. i know my place. let's talk crafts and weird tourism!

todays adventures around cincinnati actually involved no cincinnati at all. this city has always proven very elusive to me - i either have to drive right through it due to time constraints or avoid it narrowly in my travel itineraries. please, if you know things i should make a point to do in cincinnati, let me know. i'm not sure when i will be back but i am adequately mytified to make a point of returning.

instead of landing us in the big city, our adventures today took us to a couple of peripheral ketucky destinations. first off, we made a stop at pivot, a brand-spanking-new gallery/boutique in covington that we heard great things about. tammy (whose art that is above) is one of the sisters who started the business together. she was in the gallery recovering from craftin' outlaws where they had a table and was kind enough to chat it up with us about art and crafts and the area. pivot will be at renegade chicago and hopefully we will soon be doing some business with them soon. but for now, i am just impressed at how together they are for a three-week-old business (conceived only seven weeks ago). those girls are crazy geniuses!

after aitor consumed his first kentucky hot brown (i don't even know what it is after seeing it), we headed off to the day's main attraction - the creation museum! this establishment is a little gem nestled into the corn fields of petersberg, kentucky. although a bit beyond our current budget we had decided to take the plunge into humanity's 6000 year old history and boy were we glad we did. what a completely beguiling clusterfuck. wow.

we start our tour in an open area that houses dinos, cave christians, rock samples and various living flora and fauna. confusing, pretty, grand. there are also lots of smiling people around everywhere willing to help with anything and then smile more. i kept thinking about this work group on happiness that my friend misha hosted, in which statistics on the disproportionate happiness of religious people was brought up. i also felt a little skeeved. but the smiling people said i could take pictures, so i was happy.

the museum begins with discussion of the modern downfall of everyone (except...lutherans, i think). this was presented through various displays, reproduction canyons, murals, an alley of athiest graffiti and videos with teen performances reminiscent of the movie hell house. after watching projections of some kids rolling sloppy joints, i couldn't wait to be reborn! this is where the museum really kicks into high gear. we are taken back 6000 years (through a tunnel of twinkle lights) to the dawn of time - which is presented in a four minute video. it's pretty great, especially the final image which depicts adam and eve in silhouette against a nuclear sunset...with two intermingling brontosaurs in the not-to-distant background. we then leave the theatre and enter the garden, itself...

what a place! that garden really did look like a lot of fun. i can see why this stuff caught on. after this, the excitement slowed for me a bit, entering biblical territory that i already knew - original sin, women belonging to know. but i wasn't here to find out stuff i knew. i came for stuff i didn't know. in this repect, things get pretty good around the time of the ark (a central focus of the museum).

this time period does require special added attention since it is quite a challenge to figure out how two tyrannosaurs and two brontosaurs and two othersaurs all fit into those scant 300 cubits. two words: baby dinos. duh.

these diluvian times also held many changes for the earth. trilobites both ran from the flood and happily swam around under water, pangaea split up into the continents we now know, floating forests formed (we couldn't find any explanation for this), fossil fuels were created in a thin layer under the earth and much much more - all in five months! after this, the laws of science and physics that we all know and love today also came into being and here we are - saved!

and salvation was never so much fun! all that remained was a visit to the extensive gift shop and dragon-themed book shop (oh, yes, dragons figure into all this somehow, too). it sure is a hoot to be a dino-lovin' christian.

how do i look with my new glassy gaze and kentucky derby hat? i hope i look good because i feel amaaaaaaaaazing. rooooowr!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

model citizen.

i have been sitting on this news for a while now and have been busting at the seams since i saw proofs, but had to hold out on saying anything. above is a panel from a new web comic called unspent love by one of my favorite people, shannon gerard. she's been asked to do a monthly strip for top shelf (congrats, shan!) and asked me to pose for the first one right before i left toronto because she was tired of drawing her sister, son and partner. it was a crazy night - we went into the subways right after my last toronto performance with iron cobra and then sat on a bench and had farewell chats until i had to go. now, seeing it all real and online i am so proud of shannon and feel quite famous.

today i also discovered a little blogly love from my friend faythe. this crafty internet world can really be a magical place filled with love and support. it's such an adjustment from the world of performing comedy. oh, there is love there, too, but it generally comes with at least a small bit of bile and/or is coated with a cynical veneer.

with all this love heaped on me from the abyss, i suppose i should dole out some, myself.

#1 - a midwest friend, keith helt, has a new issue of his zine, flotation device, on the shelves (the internet shelf and the shelves of some independent chicago book sellers). i will be picking up a copy when i pass back through chicago in september, but you can look online and/or read up on his new blog right now to get a sense of what a cool dude keith is.

#2 - miss lauren bride has finally started a blog in an attempt to hold at least part of the immense creative output she has found herself producing since she got hit on the head by a bolt of hyper-creativity this year. lauren is also one of the progeny behind this. oh, miss bride. you are loved.

#3 - tara bursey reports that she still has a few cigar boxes to get into the hands of some worthy autobiographers for her portable library project. you should hunt her down and get involved. actually, lauren and keith should. and missy. there, i said it. i would suggest shannon, too, but i know she is freaked-out busy right now.

now to sleep. we have a big day of ridiculous tourism tomorrow in cincinnati. i joke not; this is going to be serious.

Monday, August 18, 2008

wholly craft!

i have yet to mention our gracious columbus hosts (who have been even more gracious that they expected as we are some serious lingerers when we want to be). this is because they deserve their own attentions. that's chong pictured above. he clearly can't keep up with my button making action, disproving the assertion of one craftin' outlaws patron who stood in front of my table on saturday saying to her cohort that "everyone and their brother is making buttons these days - because it's easy." i doubt she would last as long as chong. he did pretty well. and i'd be lying if i said that i hadn't passed out in the same way once or twice.

our human hosts are equally crafty. seth is a screen printer who spent his sunday doing an impressive revamp on a thrift store picture frame. i am seriously inspired by such displays of gumption. i need more day-off projects when i get home. okay, maybe i just need more days off. olivera (whom i have now know for a few years) is also the mastermind between columbus' first (and maybe only?) outlet for handmade goods, wholly craft!

aitor and i made a visit to the shop today. i am actually kicking myself for not getting a picture of the awesome mural that just happened to be there when olivera moved to this new location. i guess you are just going to have to go see for yourself. aitor and i picked up a few goodies - a book on wood finishing, a book on paint and wallpaper, some vintage fabric, a zine and some secret surprises for secret people. if you are ever in columbus, wholly craft is the place to go. olivera also makes the round to nearby craft fairs (she will be at renegade chicago, for instance), so keep and eye out. but the shop itself is the best. now to read all those books about things we should be better at doing...

oh, the shame. the shame.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

outlaws of ohio.

oh no. i am running out of steam when it comes to writing about craft fairs. craftin' outlaws is a fair we did a couple of years ago on our last tour and which seems to have grown steadily since. this year, they moved to a new location which solved a lot of problems (like the always-rained-upon back yard at the old venue). oh, up there are some of our lovely neighbours from the pittsburgh travel agency. i really liked their stuff and would have bought a shirt if i wasn't feeling so poor. i try not to feel poor but this week got a little scary.

we spent most of the day cooped up behind our table so i have a paltry collection of pictures - mostly of my own stuff. the venue was an old converted church with big coloured glass windows and the light got beautiful in the late afternoon.

aitor even took a picture of me that i liked (without goofy teeth in). so, here you go sweetie; it isn't just pictures of you (revealing how little you change your clothes) anymore.

after the fair, we all had to clear out so that a wedding reception and a playboy oil wrestling could load in (for serious). a bunch of folks from the fair went out to northstar cafe. i ate a burger made of beets. the last time we were in columbus, we walked into the northstar and heard someone way "friends!" we looked way up and saw our friend rick rumoli. it made no sense and was the best surprise and i can't walk in there without remembering that senseless moment. we had a good time with mr. rumoli, too. we ate ice cream.

Friday, August 15, 2008

baltimore more more!

as expected, our travels through baltimore today were all too brief and all too wonderful. first off, we went for a stroll through hampden, a kitchy little neighbourhood with a shopping district, nice cafes, yarn shops and the like. i had a rendezvous with the lovely folks at atomic books. rachel picked out a new batch of buttons for the shop while i browsed the racks (which house a dizzying array of books, zines and crafty stuff). the atomic empire used to be split (get it?) between two shops - atomic books and atomic pop - but have now reconsolidated into the newer, larger location on falls avenue that houses everything. it's overwhelming in all the right ways.

when we strolled past their old location, we saw this:

it would seem that our screen printing friends from squidfire are spreading their tentacles into the world of retail outlets. congratulations, guys! everyone in baltimore should go check out their new shop and the revamped atomic books.

aitor also encountered his true love in a shop window.

all the curves you'd ever want and she don't talk back. on a good day, she'll also match your socks. but alas, the store was closed and seemed pricey from what we could tell. thankfully, we encountered something a little closer to our price range at the common ground cafe down the street.

who can resist fake teeth for a quarter? well, i can tell you who can't...

after our goofings and fun and soup eating, we had to cheese it over to another amazing baltimore landmark (and a must-see for any visitors if you ask us), the american visionary art museum. i sell to the glorified gift shop there, sideshow, which is owned by the same lovely man as paper boy and uncle fun in chicago. billy from uncle fun was central in our first visit to baltimore. his urgings to go to the museum didn't overplay the majesty of the place. actually, the museum is hard to even describe and pictures are only allowed outdoors, so i will leave you with this:

totally amazing from wall to wall.

ted, the owner, picked out a heap of buttons and i picked up some remaindered books (he has a way of sourcing out an amazing selection). he also got aitor to do an impromptu unflattering portrait of gina, one of the employees.

the protrait was only on a ramada note pad and the rest of the staff wanted their portraits, too, so ted suggested we plan a trip back wherein aitor could set up for a whole day doing portraits in the museum itself! isn't that amazing? we're working on dates and think this will happen in late october or early november. i'm totally excited.

but for now, we must just dream of our return and shove off into columbus for the craftin' outlaws fair tomorrow and whatever adventure lays beyond that.